Covid-19 messaging at Piccadilly Circus
Artillery Row

Lockdown was a choice

Agree with the policy if you like, but you can’t argue Lockdown harms were caused by Covid

Chemotherapy is not always the most appropriate course of action for cancer patients. Put simply, the side effects of chemotherapy, which can have an extremely detrimental effect on the patient’s quality of life, must be taken into account in the context of the Hippocratic oath (first do no harm) before any treatments are prescribed. Where a good chance of recovery is not present, subjecting the patient to possible months of nausea, loss-of-appetite, fatigue, insomnia, hair loss, compromised immunity, anaemia or other debilitating conditions, may not be proportional to the benefit. This is why, in every individual case, decisions are made by clinicians in consultation with the patient and their family to decide whether chemotherapy is the best course of action.

Sensible decisions can only be made when the harms caused by cancer and the negative side-effects of chemotherapy are seen as mutually exclusive. Were doctors to conflate the two, a cost-benefit analysis would be rendered impossible. No oncologist would ever tell their patient that the hair loss they were experiencing was “because of the cancer”, knowing full well that it was a side-effect of the treatment. Chemotherapy is undoubtedly a highly-effective and life-saving treatment with years of efficacy data to support its implementation — but even in cases where the benefits clearly outweigh the harms, the treatment is always regarded as a choice with repercussions.

Imagine if, from its inception, chemotherapy had become an ideology. Imagine that respect for this miracle of science had transcended into zealotry, whereby no side-effects were ever considered and all debilitating symptoms were ascribed to the cancer itself. Many patients would have undergone this treatment unnecessarily, suffering a huge blow to the quality of their remaining life without any real benefit. The ability to weigh up risk and reward is a prerequisite for any healthcare practitioner or policymaker.

There is a very deliberate line of rhetoric designed to shut down any retrospective analysis of lockdown

Consider society as a patient. The novel coronavirus is the cancer. The government’s scientific advisors are the oncologists and the measures they “prescribe” are the treatment. No one can deny that the response to the threat of SARS-CoV-2 has been extreme. Unlike chemotherapy, the treatments advocated by public health advisors are novel and experimental. Thus far, the side effects have included, but are not limited to, the largest drop in GDP in over 300 years, at least 70,000 families facing homelessness, alcohol deaths rising to a 20 year high, a doubling of suicide-related calls to the London Ambulance Service, increased eating disorders in children and young people, a 60% increase in domestic abuse, 350,000 missed cancer referrals, 50,000 delayed child surgeries, and 2.9 billion cut from the foreign aid budget. On a global scale, Unicef has forecasted 1.2 million child deaths as a result of lockdowns, not the virus itself.

Articles about collateral damage widely use phrases such as “due to the pandemic” or “because the government was forced to lockdown”. This is a very deliberate line of rhetoric designed to shut down any retrospective analysis of this course of action by conflating the fallout from government policy with the effects of the pandemic itself. Before 2020, “social distancing” was an alien concept. “Lockdown” was not a word in our vocabulary. Face coverings in the community were widely seen as an ineffective and possibly counter-intuitive response to an epidemic. One year on, we are prohibited from questioning the efficacy of any of these new and extreme ideas, and are largely tricked into believing that these measures were the only possible course of action.

But there was a choice. The government made that choice. Whether you feel that this choice was appropriate or proportional to the risk is not the issue here. At the very least, one has to understand the importance of separating collateral damage caused by our measures from the effects of the virus itself. Following an initial cost-benefit analysis predicting 200,000 deaths as a result of the first lockdown, the government seemingly lost all interest in forecasting the collateral damage of their pandemic response, presenting their measures as the only viable option. 

Cancer does not cause hair loss. Viruses do not make people homeless

Even when an independent study predicted the equivalent of 500,000 lives lost to ongoing coronavirus policies, the majority of politicians showed little to no interest. Now that the damage has been done, we have an obligation to evaluate the side-effects of the treatment and decide whether those effects were proportional to the benefit, not least so that we may improve decision-making as and when new viral threats emerge. This will not be possible until journalists and MPs abandon the transparently manipulative strategy of conflating the cure with the disease.

Cancer does not cause hair loss. Viruses do not make people homeless. We have just participated, without consent, in the largest medical experiment in human history. Are we not entitled, at the very least, to a fair and logical evaluation of the outcomes?

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